Dialogue Commandment #3: Honesty & Sincerity

THIRD COMMANDMENT: Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity. It should be made clear in what direction the major and minor thrusts of the tradition move, what the future shifts might be, and, if necessary, where the participant has difficulties with her own tradition. No false fronts have any place in dialogue.

Conversely–each participant must assume a similar complete honesty and sincerity in the other partners. Not only will the absence of sincerity prevent dialogue from happening, but the absence of the assumption of the partner”s sincerity will do so as well. In brief: no trust, no dialogue.

“No trust, no dialogue.” That simple summation says it all. If we approach one another with suspicion and doubt one another”s sincerity, we may be able to engage in conversation, negotiation, or even diplomacy. But we are not in dialogue. Dialogue requires of each participant a certain vulnerability- a willingness to be honest about ourselves and our religious experience, and the willingness to trust that the other is doing the same.That vulnerability can be especially difficult when the discussion touches on areas of our own religious tradition where we ourselves may be having questions, difficulties, or struggles. We may try to compensate for our own questioning by taking an exaggeratedly dogmatic or forceful stance, or by becoming defensive.At the same time, we need to acknowledge that no one is perfect, and that our resistance or defensiveness may be an unavoidable fact of human experience. So, too, are occasional resistances or defensiveness in our dialogue partners. And so we don”t assume that when such times arise that our partner is speaking in bad faith. If we commit ourselves to being as honest and sincere as we are able, and to presume that our partner is doing the same, new avenues of dialogue can open up as we deepen our understanding both of the other and of ourselves.

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